Salute the Captain: a real sporting hero

Football provides us with so many heroes, but this week all I’ve seen and heard is petty squabbling and series of self-serving moans.

We’ve had to listen to poor old Manchester City complaining about the cold in Moscow.

We’ve learned that Sir Alex Ferguson (presumably in the hope of selling a few extra copies) has hung David Moyes out to dry in an updated version of his book.

And down at QPR we have born witness to the manager and one of his chubby squad players embroiled in a tit-for-tat slanging match via the national press. “You’re fat,” said Harry Redknapp. “You’re lazy,” replied Adel Taraabt, and so it continued until the chairman pulled them apart by their pigtails.

Yes people; gallantry in football has been in woefully short supply.

Not so in snooker.

You may, or may not have heard of Ali Carter, but you should now.

He’s a 35-year-old professional from Essex who has spent most of the last decade knocking around the world’s top 16. Most noted for being a two-time World Championship finalist, his nickname is ‘The Captain’, as he holds a pilot’s license.

Last week ‘The Captain’ flew cattle class to Hong Kong to compete in the not-so-prestigious General Cup.

It’s a non-ranking event that offered up just £10,000 to the winner – or less than half of what Sunderland’s players will each be shelling out to fans who spent their hard-earned cash on seeing their 8-0 horror show at Southampton, if you’re looking for a football analogy.

Ordinarily his triumph in that minor competition wouldn’t make headline news. In fact, unless you were a snooker buff you’d probably never have known it had happened.

Yet on this occasion, his achievement was nothing short of mind blowing. It should be shouted from the rooftops.

For in May this year, Carter was devastatingly diagnosed with lung cancer; a discovery he’d learned just ten months after being given the all clear for testicular cancer, following surgery.

As if those two crushing blows weren’t hard enough to cope with, the Chelmsford-based cueist has also suffered from Crohn’s disease – a serious type of inflammatory bowel condition – since 2003.

The path has he trodden, has not always been an easy one.

“I thought it was game over for me when they said there was a shadow on my lung,” Carter confessed in a radio interview before he flew out to Hong Kong.

“When I came home after I saw the consultant and he diagnosed me, my son Max was sitting on my sofa. I came through the door and he looked at me and said ‘daddy you are my best friend’.

“I had to go upstairs and I burst into tears. I had been told I had a type of cancer in my lung and it was too much. But I knew my son needed me, and that was my driving force to get myself better.”

And get better he did.

Completing four urgent and intensive rounds of chemotherapy to burn away the tumour in his lung, including the final course just last month, Carter’s immediate instinct on news that his treatment had been a success, was to throw himself straight back into the sport.

He had to withdraw from a tournament in Bulgaria in early October because of a pain in his left arm, but Carter remained undeterred and pressed ahead with his plans to compete at the General Cup despite doubts that he wasn’t ready.

Initially content just to be playing, Carter unexpectedly embarked on a stunning run of form, beating fellow world ranked stars Marco Fu, Liang Wenbo, Mark Davis and finally Shaun Murphy, 7-6 in a dramatic final, to land first prize.

It was a victory that stunned snooker, and also the man himself.

Afterwards an emotional Carter said, “I was thousands of miles from home and it wasn’t easy, but to keep going through each round was just remarkable.

“Six weeks ago I was attached to a machine giving me chemo drugs and didn’t have a hair on me. No eyebrows, nothing on my head.  It’s a fairytale. It’s the biggest win of my career. I have won more money and this was only an invitational tournament with no ranking points but it means so much.

“I want others to look at me and use it as inspiration. You could just give up… but why?”

If you’re searching for a new sporting hero, forget about football for now and all those whining sob stories that come with it.

Look no further than The Captain; a sportsman with true warrior spirit.








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